The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

30 March 2012

A chuckle

When I'm in need of a chuckle, I go to Catalog Living.  Here's a good example of what they do.

28 March 2012

Amended : of rights and wrongs

Living when and where I do, it is sometimes - no, often, if I'm honest - difficult for me to get worked up about women's rights, or get teary-eyed about women's suffrage. I take for granted my right to vote, and expect that my voice will be heard when I express an opinion.

Granted, I do also expect to get condescending treatment from men in places like car lots or mechanic shops, and that there will be times when my opinion counts for less to some people because I am a woman. All the same, I find it very hard to imagine what it was like for women in the years before the vote was granted them - us - when they - we - were legally considered chattel. While it doesn't sit right with me that women had to wait 50 years after all men in the US, regardless of race, colour, or 'previous condition of servitude' (15th Amendment, 1870) could vote, it has since become so entrenched in our culture that I don't even question it.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so complaisant.  Nothing encourages deterioration and decay quite like inattentiveness and apathy does it? Consider first amendment rights today. The Founding Fathers of the US Constitution thought the freedoms of speech and religion were so important, they submitted the First Amendment for ratification only two years after the Constitution was first adopted. Do we treasure the freedoms of speech and religion as much as they did?

There has been a media event recently, involving an actor and his publicly stated opinion on a certain rainbow-appropriating lifestyle.  He doesn't have the power to enact public policy. He isn't teaching children in a classroom. He wasn't inciting hatred or promoting bullying, He was asked a question in an interview, and he answered frankly and honestly. People may agree or disagree with his statements, but to deny he has the right to express himself is pulling at a thread of US tradition, history, and legal fabric. Judging by the response to his comments, the famous First is only applicable to those who express the correct ideas and opinions.

Where will that lead us, in the end? Will parents be prohibited from teaching their children faith-based morals? Will doctors be legally chastised for providing information contrary to public opinion? Rainbows are bright and cheery - gay, in fact - but the multi-coloured banner represents a physically, spiritually, and socially harmful way of life. But through clever language appropriation, political positioning, and heart string tugging, any expression of concern for well being, or attempt to clarify facts is shouted down as intolerance, hatred, or fear.

The law is too subtle and nuanced a thing for a lay person to fully grasp the depth of meaning, intent, and impact of the written words. However, it isn't beyond the ken of a lay person to understand that times and trends are changing, even in the law, and to believe those changes are not for the better. What concerns me, is that we are more aware of and concerned with rights and freedoms than we are with rights and wrongs.

We can take our rights and priveleges for granted, until one day we realize that while we weren't looking, they've been taken from us, and we're chattel once more.

27 March 2012

Muffins and muppets

Wow, people are becoming militant these days.

They're angry about the 1%, about the ozone layer, about Kirk Cameron; they're incredibly vocal about diversity and tolerance; they are insistent their rights are superior to my rights and will argue so to their last breath. People will even chime in with opinions on how many children you should have, or how you feed your children.

Speaking of which, not even food is safe from these know-it-better muppets.  There was a meeting at work today, for which nibblies were provided. One of the ladies was about to bite into a mini muffin when a gentleman barked, "Those aren't heart healthy!"  "It has blueberries.  Blueberries are very good for you," she said, somewhat guiltily. "Blueberries must be uncooked," he instructed, "never heated or baked in something."

What was she to do at that point?  Put the mini muffin back on the tray? Write a letter of protest to the bakery? Run laps?  I'm sure she'd been looking forward to the treat all throughout the somewhat tedious meeting. She quite possibly hadn't had breakfast in her rush to equip her children with healthful snacks for their nutrition breaks at school.  Gone was her enjoyment in that simple treat. I certainly wasn't going to draw attention to myself by doing so shocking a thing as picking a mini muffin when there were health-appropriate (though pale and dried out) cantaloupes and honeydews to be had.

You know what?  Back off.  Leave me and my muffin alone.

22 March 2012

An Irish smash-up - of timing and accents

My friend and fellow-conspirator at The Feminine Gift recently wrote about hair.  We tackle very serious matters there as well, believe me - but isn't her hair and all its foibles near and dear to a woman's heart?  For better or worse, our hair truly is our crowning glory.

Yesterday I wrote here about the surprisingly warm weather we're having.  The two ideas have created today's smash-up of a post -- hair in warm weather.  Or - because let's face it, this is all about me - my hair in warm weather.

Just over a month ago I hied myself off to a stylist and had my hair butchered... err... cut about 4 inches shorter.  My thinking was, you see, that it would be nicely grown by the time summer came around and it would be well and truly long enough to put up again.  There is nothing worse than damp and prickly hair rubbing against the back of your neck or forever hanging in your face.

In the words of Blue Rodeo, it's just bad timing that's all.

~  x ~  x  ~

Elsewhere, back in the real world where people are coping with serious things, I was asked by one of the students today if I was Irish.
"Am I Irish?"  I clarified, puzzled by his question.  Earlier this week I was telling a friend that I don't feel Irish on St.Paddy's Day - my blood is just too Orange to ever run green.
"You sound like you're Irish," he said.  "You have an accent."
"No," said I, "no I'm not Irish."
"Well, you have an accent," he insisted.

Somewhere out there in the ether is a lost friend who laughed when I said I've been told I sound European.  How I wish I could tell him "I told you so."

I'm gracious like that.

21 March 2012

Of blankets and toes

It is unseasonably warm, like we jumped clear over Spring and landed well into Summer.  This makes dressing in the morning very difficult for me, because there has been no transition from long sleeves to to three-quarter length, or even from three layers to two layers.  No, we are suddenly exposing elbows and ankles and I'm just not prepared for it.  I feel naked without a jacket, and my toes are too bashful to be on display so early in the season.  I'm reluctant to take the blanket off my bed, because what if the temperature plummets?  I don't know about you, but once I'm in bed, it takes a tornado (or a royal wedding) to get me up again before the alarm goes, even when the awareness of turning into a block of ice is niggling at the recesses of my subconscious mind.

There is a children's book about a little girl's sandals flying south for the winter.  If my summer shoes had done the same thing, I'd be wearing boots in tropical temps because they were held up in the Atlanta airport on their way back home.

I'm not complaining, you understand.  I'd just like a little time for the necessary buffing and polishing.

17 March 2012

Walking on water

You know how it is.  You hear (or read) the opening of a scripture passage in a daily reading, and you immediately race ahead and fill in the blanks.  Then maybe you zone out a little.

"Oh yeah," you say to yourself, "this is the lost sheep one... one goes missing but the Shepherd finds it." Then you're free to wander until standing or music brings you back into focus again.

Ok, ok, I'm sure that never happens to you.  I should have made it personal and written only of myself.  I admit I do it a lot.

Yesterday's Gospel was from Mark 6: 45-52.  After the crowds were sent away, Jesus went up the mountain to pray and the others went out in a boat.  A storm came up and they began to fret.  And then came Jesus, walking on the water.  He was going to pass them by, Mark writes, but they called to Him and He got into the boat.

I'd never really payed attention to that bit before: He was going to pass them by.  He wasn't necessarily walking on water in order to go to them and comfort them.  To me, this sounds like walking on water - and who knows what other marvelous and miraculous physical feats - was something He performed for no particular reason, as a matter of course, or for His own enjoyment.  There are so many details of His daily life before and during His ministry years that we don't know.  To think of Him praying on His own and then... la di dah... walking on water, strikes me as fun-loving and exuberant.  He went into the storm, and I get that.  Don't you get a rush from the intensity of nature showing off?

I may not have had the wisdom or the faith to have recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah, but I know I would have wanted to spend time with a man who walked on water and chased the wind.

15 March 2012

From dark to light

From today's readings:

Jer. 7: 28
This is the nation which does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction.  Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.

How true that is, and how sad it is.  In ways big and small, we have forgotten to value or live by faithfulness. Consider the state of marriage; look at the court system which is backlogged with cases of broken contracts; employees no longer stay with one company, and employers no longer look out for their workers; professional sports has turned into a multi-million dollar swap meet; politicians break promises so regularly we wonder why they bother in the first place.

What a bleak picture that is.  Isn't it easy to give way to despair and lament the golden years gone by?  If only we could go back in time and hope that knowing what we know now we'd get it right the second time around.

Before we can give up entirely, however, our Holy Mother Church exhorts us by giving this Psalm today:
Ps. 95:1-2,6
Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord, let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us greet Him with thanksgiving, let us joyfully sing psalms to Him.
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us.

We are not to just sing, but sing joyfully!  We are to acknowledge God, our hope of salvation; to practice thankfulness, to have a joyful spirit.  Even now, when things look so dire we begin to hope the End is Nigh because we can't imagine - or want to see - how it could possibly get any worse, we place God ahead of our worry and fear, and put ourselves at His feet in worship.

I'm a word girl... you'll read that in the "about me" bit somewhere under that Vermeer portrait of a girl writing.  I believe that words are powerful, and that the words we use are an accurate portrait of who we are.  A society that turns murder into choice is one that also no longer values faithfulness.  It (faithfulness, fidelity) used to be a sign of integrity and strength of character.  Of course, along with faithfulness, we have also neutered integrity and character.  You see how one thing gives way to another?

Before I get too comfortable on my soapbox, I must remember that my duty of the moment is to give thanks to God.  Like Job, I will bless His Name in these dark days.  If I don't hide my light under a bushel basket, it will be joined with your light, and together we will push back the lies and deceit that hide in dark places.

13 March 2012

Still tripping

Do you ever play the game of "If I won the lottery, I'd..."?

If you won the big jackpot (it has to be the big one, 'cause a million bucks doesn't go as far as it used to) what would you do with it?  Let's skip right to the part after you've given money to the charities closest to your heart and the family members you want to help and you've got a big ol' pile of the stuff that doesn't buy happiness but sure would be fun to play with.  Now what?

For sure I'd like to travel, and Italy is right at the top of my list, very closely followed by just about the rest of Europe (I'm not feeling too friendly about Greece just now).  I'd like to travel in a drifting sort of way - no pressure of itineraries, no 'if this is Tuesday I must be in Lichtenschtein' - just the freedom to stay where I like until the customs folks drag me out or I feel like returning home.

Everyone dreams of travelling, don't they?  I'm sure you can all name three places you'd like to see at the drop of a hat. Do you choose the beautiful or do you go for heat and beaches? Maybe you'd make a pilgrimage of it, to visit the sites of your favourite British authors or the Saints of Italy. Perhaps you'd like to explore the Orient, follow the ancient spice route, or traverse the Outback. Do you go by planes, trains, or automobiles? Do you document every moment of your voyage with camera or journal, or do you live every moment and trust the experience to infuse your very being?

Travel is a given. The greatest luxury item I can think of for at home is black-out blinds.  If I had money to play with, I would buy black-out blinds.  Here, on the second stop of The Great Northern Road Trip, my room (most graciously loaned to me by Noah) is kitted out with a very remarkable window covering.  It looks like an ordinary sort of contraption but when it is fully in place, not one beam of light comes through - save for a tiny sliver at the very edge, meaning the room is perfectly... well, womb-like.  Fantastic! No seeping vapours from street lights nor even any stray gleam of stars.  I haven't slept so deeply in a very long time, even though I feel like I'm bobbing on a raft when I roll over in bed.  Not even the threat of motion sickness diminishes the magical power of these blinds.

Having a lovely time; wish you were here.

10 March 2012

The Great Northern Road Trip

First leg of the Great Northern Road Trip completed successfully.  The departure day  - being yesterday - began in a most interesting fashion, in that it was sunny and spring-like when I peered through the blinds at first light but no less than an hour later when next I looked, a full-on winter landscape had been painted over top of the grass and road.  Where had all that snow come from?

Not one to let a paltry snowstorm hold me back, I undertook the journey, remembering with some trepidation the last time I travelled this far north.  I went with my sister to a girl's weekend away (which, by the way, sparked the inspiration for The Feminine Gift).  We stayed overnight in a northern town before continuing the rest of the way the next day.  We went to bed on a somewhat chilly but clear night, and woke up to Winter with a capital w.  Snow was already accumulated up to the bumper which was for sure going to make the remainder of the journey exciting. It did.

I half expected yesterday to follow in the tire tracks of that earlier voyage.  While I did chase pockets of snow all the way north, it was mostly a clear and sunny expedition.  I did forget about one little detail: gas stations are few and far between in equal measure to your distance from the 401.  I drove right on through many a small town (and by town I mean a sign indicating the trees on either side of the road are home to 2,500 people) telling myself each time that I would wait for the next one before stopping for gas... and then the next one.  Only the fuel providers were becoming fewer and farther between before dwindling to almost nonexistent and all the while my gas gauge was falling frighteningly closer to the empty mark.  Dear Lord, let there be a gas station around the next corner!  Had I remembered to bring my cell phone - was there even cell phone reception here in the exposed spine of the Canadian Shield?  When I finally did stop, it was snowing wet snowflakes as big as dinner plates, so that one falling on my head completely undid a half hour of blow drying effort.

On a musical note, I was well supplied with Kelly, Dave, and The Trews... but what did I listen to the most?  That's right... talk radio.  Honestly, will I ever learn?

09 March 2012

Trippin' on the road

Road trip!

March break and all over Canada, students have flung themselves deliriously out of school like that final, giddy scene in Grease. Or any other movie about children being set free from institutions of education.

Grown ups are not left out of this happy equation: either they are flinging flip flops and sunscreen into beach bags for a week of sun and sand induced torpor, or they are desperately looking through municipal calendars for possibilities of last minute and week long March Break camps.  "The children are going to be home all week  long.  ALL WEEK!"  And suddenly a formerly competent set of parents realizes a week is five whole days in which their beloved youngsters cannot possibly sit in front of the tv and thus need occupation - or mom will go prematurely grey and dad will fall victim to an accelerated balding process.

But I digress.  The Peanuts - being the most delightful children on the planet (their mother and I agreed on that last night.  After they'd been put to bed.) are cheering along with every other young person. The House of Nuts revels in a schedule-free scenario and knowing they are going to be just fine without me, I am taking myself on a little roadtrip to regions far and north.  I'll be spending time with Miss Sarah, fellow writer and cohort at The Feminine Gift   and Mrs Tree, also a writer. To complete an already fun trip, I'll be spending a few days with Oma (grandmother to the Peanuts).  Hoorah!

I love - as in loooove - a roadtrip and have been looking forward to this one for ages.  The tricksy bit is it happens during this questionable time of year.  Do I pack for winter, or winter/spring?  Must I bring boots AND sturdy shoes, or sturdy shoes and flats?  Turtle necks or long sleeve t-shirts?  You see my dilemma?  And that's not all:  what am I going to want to listen to, a week from now after five days in the car?  Stocking the play list, as I've written about before, is a complex but pivotal procedure.  If I don't get it right, I'll end up listening to talk radio, and that never does anybody any good.

See you on the road!

01 March 2012

Fasting and feasting

Fasting and feasting

Fasting and feasting: which is more appealing, and which is the more difficult to do?  My instinctive answer is to say that fasting is arduous and uncomfortable, while feasting is fun and indulgent, so I would prefer to do the latter.

First, let’s establish our terms: what is fasting?  It is the denial of one good in order to attain another good. According to canon law, fasting is the taking of only one full meal and two smaller meals which do not equal the full meal, with no eating between meals. We fast to mortify the flesh – to discipline the body in order to focus on the spiritual. We also fast out of obedience because it has been asked of us. [Religious] fasting is not a device to help us finally follow through on our New Year’s resolutions – though that may be a happy side effect!

We know that Lent is the big ‘season of fasting’, but Catholics used to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays during ordinary time as well – Wednesday being the day Jesus was betrayed, and Friday the day He died.  There were also several prescribed days of fast in addition to the season of Lent, such as on the vigils of high feast days. Some religious orders still observe some form of fasting from Advent to Easter.  Sigrid Undset’s trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter vividly brings to life what old (14th Century) Catholicism was like with strict fasts, a full allotment of daily Masses and communal prayer, and penances that cost the penitent some effort to fulfill, such as a walking pilgrimage.  This may sound grim and harsh, but Undset also clearly shows that the people sincerely desired holiness and were very happy in their faith (she just as clearly shows that holiness is not an easy accomplishment, and that good people, fallen into sin, can seek and accept redemption.)

Our current practice of fasting is very relaxed from what it used to be, and the thought of forgoing meat or chocolate for a time can seem unnecessarily harsh. How ironic – not to mention illogical – that people will voluntarily and happily discipline their consumption for health reasons, whether to diet, or purge and cleanse, or as part of an athletic training regimen.

People flinch at the idea of fasting, but it really is feasting that is difficult to sustain. This was brought home during our last Christmas season, when around day eight of Christmas I was beginning to be tired of fireworks, rich cakes, and silver bells, and longed for a return to the usual and ordinary.  Twelve days is a very long time through which to sustain a feast in attitude, spirit, and stomach!  Clearly feasting, like gratitude, and joyfulness, is a state that requires effort and must be practiced. That leads me to think this life is really preparing us to endure and maintain the eternal joy and celebration of heaven.  We’ve got to do the work now in order to be able to sustain it then.

Perhaps feasting isn’t the easy option after all.   Thank goodness it’s Lent!